Project Scope – Size Matters

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my “hobby time” and why I want to do it. There are lots of things I enjoy doing in life, but there is only so much time to do it all! It really is imperative that we have some kind of plan to avoid running out of time (or will) and never accomplishing anything. And, that’s where project scope comes in to play.

I’ve determined that there are three basic questions you can answer to determine the correct size for your project, with size being the time, effort, and emotional investment required to finish the project. The questions are,

1. Who is this project for?

2. Why am I doing this project?

3. What is the project about?

To help you understand how this works, I will provide three examples from my own life, Legend of Hondo, Loop Dipole and the Chaoties, and gardening with my family. Each of these projects absolutely have their own scope, their own size, and all three can become completely overwhelming if I lose track of the who, the why, and the what of it all. Writing this post is a way for me to congeal my thoughts, but hopefully reading it will also help you not feel as overwhelmed and paralyzed about your projects as I some times feel about mine.


Legend of Hondo
This is a massive project with hundreds of “moving parts” and by its very nature, taking one game and morphing it into another, it’s something that will take years to complete. And it’s that very “long term goal” aspect which can cause the project to become emotionally crippling – it’s a huge pile of work, with more work heaped on top of it, which can’t really be used until all of the work has been completed. It’s easy to give up on a project like this if you’re not satisfied by reaching incremental goals.

In the beginning, before it even had a name, my Legend of Hondo project was just about making a Star Wars Galaxies Emu server that I could play on alone. Then I got to thinking that I could finally fix some of the stuff about the game that bothered me, which in turn lead to making new content and eventually coming up with an overall theme for a single player RPG. But most importantly, Legend of Hondo was supposed to be for ME, just ME. Unfortunately, my work on the project caused me to get side tracked by fan mail and requests for assistance with other projects, which of course I answered, because I am a nice guy. So all of a sudden my personal pet project exploded into a menagerie of systems and customizations for various SWGEmu based servers, all wrapped up in the need to keep up to date with the ever changing, constantly “refactored” state of the SWGEmu code… As much as I like helping people, doing so made me lose sight of why I was willing to put up with the convoluted science project that is the SWGEmu code base and the game client for which the modding tools are tedious. I’m doing it for ME, so that one day when I am an old man I can sit down and enjoy the game – it doesn’t need to be finished tomorrow or even this year or even at all really and how it works for someone else doesn’t matter in the least.

So to sum that up a little less emotionally…

1. Who is this project for?
Legend of Hondo is something I am creating for myself, because I feel like it.

2. Why am I doing this project?

I am creating Legend of Hondo mainly so that I can enjoy the end product at a later date, but also because I enjoy designing the new systems and creating the new content. I also enjoy most of the programming and some of the artistic challenges involved.

3. What is the project about?

Legend of Hondo is all about making a single player version of Star Wars Galaxies that has everything I always wanted in the original game. It’s the combination of opened ended game play (where you are free to do what you’d like, whenever you’d like) and a sort of choose your adventure type story, where your actions build a meaningful sense of identity for your characters. That day when you finally become The Dread Pirate or The Legendary Pirate or even the Master Pirate will be the day you look back and say to yourself, “Wow, what an adventure the journey to this moment was!”…


Loop Dipole and the Chaoties
Long before it had a name, Loop was a game I personally wanted to play – something that was all about going fast and having fun getting there! Car racing games are alright, but they tend to be about… well, racing cars, which can be more simulation than stimulation. Arcade games like SuperTuxKart and Mario Kart are definitely fun, but they lack certain game play mechanics that are also fun, such as gathering resources and using those resources to customize your character or to solve puzzles, etc. Loop really is a product of those basic desires and that void of content, a reality I have never lost sight of, despite how I have frequently found that building such a game is easier said than done!

I have restarted this project a number of times, each time because the process of building it is a learning experience. I started it by programming in C++ using the Cafu engine. Later I thought it would be better as a mod for SuperTuxKart, which lead me to using Blende. Using Blender lead me to thinking I should just make the whole game in Blender! Then actually using Blender Game Engine to make a full sized game lead me to the understanding that BGE isn’t particularly well suited to making a full sized games. So now I am sitting here in 2017 once again contemplating on where I want to go with it. To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question! Mobile, desktop, web based, who knows?!

1. Who is this project for?
This was a tough question to answer, but the truth is that Loop Dipole and the Chaoties is a game that is for everyone, not just for me.

2. Why am I doing this project?
I am making Loop, because I enjoy the process of making games, but I am also making it to prove to (again) that I can finish making a game. So, it is important to me that the game is finished and that the game is, at the very least, easily available to be played by others.

3. What is the project about?
Loop is about the joy of speeding around blowing stuff up while collecting other useful stuff. Yet it’s also about bringing order to chaos by solving puzzles and by learning about yourself and how you like to play the game. Loop Dipole is an energy being who collects various forms of energy that allow him to take on new shapes that have different attributes and abilities. He also uses this energy to balance out the chaotic energy of his world. You see, at one time Loop was nothing more than a Chaotie himself, only vaguely aware of his own existence. However, one day he passed through a fog of chaos and emerged with a sense of self and with the determination to share his gift with his world.


Gardening With My Girlies!
I know initially said it was gardening with my family, but truth be told, my wife’s idea of gardening is looking at the pretty flowers and eating the fruits and vegetables that magically appear in the yard. The kids on the other hand are much more willing to get their hands dirty on a regular basis!

It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since then, but looking back I have to say that our best years for gardening were definitely 2012 and 2013. Abby and Baylea were still quite young then, so I had to do a lot of the work myself and unfortunately I did spend a little too much time playing the roll of the scare crow, otherwise known as “grumpy daddy who yells at me while I run, carefree, through the garden”. What can ya do, right? Kids will be kids and squashed plants don’t grow. 🙂 In any case, when 2014 rolled around the girls were “all gardened out” and it wasn’t until 2016 that they really took an interest in process again.

This year we’re going back to the traditional style of garden, as our experiment last year with the “living sitting area” (known as Girlie Grove) wasn’t as inspiring or as useful as I had imagined it would be. In retrospect, it probably would have been a big hit back in 2013 when our eldest, Neillia, was still into playing “little kid games”. Man… they grow up so fast, it’s just not fair…

Anyhow, here’s the skinny on my gardening project with my family.

1. Who is this project for?
The gardening project is for everyone in my family.

2. Why am I doing this project?
When I was kid, my dad had a garden that he put a lot of effort into. I wish I could say that we spent countless hours having fun with each other in his garden, with him teaching me all about life and all about himself, but the truth is that I mostly helped him get his tractor unstuck on the days he was plowing. I also happily ate his magical produce and occasionally squashed some tomato worms. Eventually I came around and appreciated his effort and what gardening meant to him, but wouldn’t you know it, I also went away that summer for no good reason and he died the next spring. Such is life.

I want to give my kids the connection to their parents, to each other, and to themselves introspectively, that I lacked when I was growing up. I want to spend time with them showing them how their efforts and their attention will be rewarded.

3. What is the project about?
Gardening is an emotionally relaxing, yet physically vigorous way to connect with my kids. From forging the furrows out of sod to preparing a meal using fresh picked beans, gardening is an experience they can hold in their hands that will live a life time in their hearts.


Well, I hope my examples have given you a some idea of how I used those three simple questions to define the scope and size of my projects. Answering those questions, and keeping the answers in mind as often as possible while working on your project, will help you naturally limit its scope. Understanding who the project is for and why are you are doing the project in the first place will allow you determine the size of the project: If you’re doing a project to prove the point to yourself or to the universe at large that you can accomplish it, then it makes sense to keep the project small and tightly focused so that you can finish it in a timely manner. Break it down into manageable chunks, set clear milestones, and avoid adding more to it beyond refinements to the original design, and you will finish it. And on the other hand, if you’re working on project simply for the joy of doing so and that project will likely take many years to complete, then try your best to keep that in mind so you don’t stress yourself out for not finishing it fast enough. That kind of long term project can be as big as you’d like, because it can’t be finished quickly anyway!

When it comes to hobby projects it is important to not stress out about them, because the whole point of having a hobby is to do something that is fun! If you find yourself stressing out or no longer enjoying your hobby, ask yourself the questions I presented above. Hopefully your answers will help you rediscover your passion for the project or maybe your answers will provide you with the closure you need to move onto new challenges.

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